adam osborne, the man…

I do not know how many of us remember Adam, I mean THE Adam.

A few days back, I was talking to Christopher Quilkey (the editor of the journal Mountain Path – published by Ramanashramam) – who visited Bangalore and us on some personal errand. Apparently he spent some 5 years personally tending to his ailing friend Adam – and Chris must have shared in the grief and sorrow of  witnessing the gradual and irreversible deterioration of a beautiful, straight-thinking and innovative brain.

But, some of us may not know Adam.

” The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake – you can’t learn anything from being perfect. “

— Adam Osborne

He was the guy who spent his childhood in Tiruvannamalai in Tamilnadu, prided himself for being the ‘only vellaikara tamil’ (the only white tamil) – and after a rather roller-coaster ride through life (and silicon valley),  finally breathed his last in 2003, in Kodaikanal in Tamilnadu.

These biographical details perhaps, are not that important. But, I personally admire him for three reasons:

1. He was a true pioneer of the relentless drive for making usable personal computers really economically. (thusly innovating in the area much before the other respectable guy,  Steve Jobs – am not even talking about Bill Gates) I would say that he was the first true PC entrepreneur.

2. Him being the first successful publisher of useful, affordable, very well designed computer books – in addition to being a very good author.

3. The fact that he talked persistently about the inferiority complex of many of us ‘learned’ Indians. (In this context, he even wrote a simple and hard hitting article in a computer trade magazine DataQuest, way back in 1991 – that is reproduced in the next blog entry)

… Chris shared  a few poignant details about the final years of Adam, and the human condition. One suddenly felt rather numb.

Chris is also a sensitive and fine raconteur of ideas – and of course, we then moved on to other common interests such as the dogs being very sentient, films etc etc. Such is life.

But I thought, I will share my admiration of Adam and that of his article which was making rounds on the USENET a couple of decades or so ago… It is worth reflecting on…

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